Thoughts on Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics

By Phin Upham

I recently re-read “Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics: Some Problems and Solutions,” by Michael N. Forster, included in my book Space of Love and Garbage. Michael N. Forster is Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. His research interests include the philosophy of language and topics in epistemology. His books include Wittgenstein on the Arbitrariness of Grammar and Hegel’s Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit.

Here is the bio (above) from the essay and a quotation of my favorite paragraphs of the essay (below).

Friedrich Schleiermacher is widely regarded as the father of modern hermeneutics, or interpretation theory. That title may in the end more properly belong to his predecessor Johann Gottfried Herder. But whichever of them deserves the greater credit (a question I shall set aside here), the theory which they both develop is arguably not only the ancestor of, but also philosophically superior to, its more metaphysically pretentious descendant in Heidegger and Gadamer, and is of great intrinsic interest. The purpose of this chapter is to explore some central aspects of Schleiermacher’s hermeneutics and to suggest how they should be interpreted and assessed. My general strategy will involve pointing up rather than playing down certain inconsistencies and other problems in his position, in part simply because I believe that they are there and that exegesis therefore ought to recognize them, but also in part because reflecting on them seems to me philosophically fruitful. The interpretive and philosophical suggestions which I will be offering are provisional and tentative in spirit.

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